There are only so many times that one can use phrases such as "emerging talent" or "upcoming star" before one must concede that the artist in question has in fact made it into the major league of jazz. With the August 2023 release of her second full-length album Chroma on the label ACT, this is precisely the point that tenor saxophonist Emma Rawicz has reached in her career. Building upon her successes from 2022, which involved featuring as a finalist in the BBC Young Jazz Musician, receiving the Jazz Newcomer award at the Parliamentary Jazz Awards, and becoming a regular host of the Late Late Show at Soho's renowned Ronnie Scott's, Rawicz has delivered a very impressive album that is both ambitious yet highly controlled. Comprised entirely of original material, she has continued to demonstrate a unique compositional voice that matches her wonderful improvisational abilities.
The album is named after the Ancient Greek word for colour and is a reference to Rawicz's chromesthesia, a type of synesthesia which involves seeing vivid colours in response to certain sounds and frequencies. And indeed, this is an album full of colour. Joined by Ivo Neame on piano, Ant Law on guitar, Conor Chaplin on upright and electric basses, Asaf Sirkis on drums, and Immy Churchill on vocals, the album is a twisting journey through dense harmonies and angular melodic lines. Rawicz's tenor offers perhaps the most striking colour palette of them all, shifting effortlessly between soaring lyrical phrases, fast-fingered flurries, and muscular growls.
The opening track, "Phlox," jumps straight into this kaleidoscopic colour spectrum with Sirkis' rhythmic chanting, clearly inspired by the vocal technique of Hindustani Classical music. The melody then enters, reminiscent of the wonky intervallic leaps of the Eddie Harris standard "Freedom Jazz Dance." The second track, "Xanadu I," is a complete change of mood a tempo, a contemplative ballad in which Rawicz explores the delicate altissimo registers of her tenor over shimmering piano chords and sparse drums fills. The third track, "Rangwali," sounds almost like a Chick Corea composition, with its driving Latin rhythmic pulse, fast electric piano lines, and flute and vocal melodies in octave unison. The intriguing variation of these opening tracks set the tone for the rest of the disc. Highlights include "Xanadu II" which verges on the edge of free jazz and brings a wild ferocity where the first version was peaceful and soothing. "Viridian" is more traditional in its instrumentation of acoustic piano and double bass, and the closing track is propelled towards a frenetic end with its scuttling up-tempo drum patterns and darting solos.
There is an infectious energy which is evident throughout the album, and we can only listen on in in eager anticipation of what the future holds in store for Rawicz.
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